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T-DOT Outlines $230M In Improvements To Help 70-Corridor Traffic

A T-DOT study suggests $230 million in road improvements to Highway 70 between Baxter and Cookeville, as well as an extension of Tennessee Avenue.

Putnam County Commissioners heard the results Monday night of a study conducted over the last year on growing congestion in the area. In addition to the 70-corridor, they focused on County Farm Road and Pippin Road, where traffic count numbers have increased in recent years.

T-DOT recommended an extension of Tennessee Avenue from its current endpoint to Gainesboro Grade. The plan includes five-lane portions of Highway 70 near the Cookeville and Baxter City Limits.

The study does not detail when the project would happen or how it would be paid for. County Mayor Randy Porter said having T-DOT conduct the study should help the county secure funding.

“The goal is for us to be able to apply with T-DOT for future grants and projects to try to make this happen,” Porter said. “Because we all know that the county can’t afford to do these kind of projects at the cost, but there’s a lot of funds coming through T-DOT. This is the first step for us to be able to apply for those grants in the future, to be able to try to do some of this.”

The Highway 70 improvements would include a center-turn lane and new sidewalks on the Cookeville section with sidewalks in key sections only of the Baxter segment.

T-DOT considered two routes for Tennessee Avenue between Highway 70 and Gainesboro Grade. One would use existing roads, while the other would be almost entirely new.

“While the other alignment had existing roads, you also had more impacts to more residential areas,” T-DOT’s Garth Lynch said. “You still have property impacts, but to a lesser degree of buildings and displacements on that front.”

The exact path of the Tennessee Avenue extension has yet to be determined.

The county received a $100,000 T-DOT Planning Grant last year to pay for this assessment study. A T-DOT official told commissioners that having T-DOT do the work on the needs should help move the project forward and it shows Putnam County is serious about wanting to fix the issues. Grants are available to fund these kinds of projects, including money from T-DOT.

Porter said the study gives the county a starting point to begin talks internally, then talk to T-DOT about how they would tackle the massive project outlined and in what steps.

“County Farm Road is probably going to be the one we need to look at first and come back to the commission for us to apply for funds and projects with T-DOT in the future,” Porter said.

Most require a county match of between 5 and 20 percent.

The study included six stages including data collection, citizen surveys and engineering work. Residents ask that roadway capacity and safety be improved. They noted County Farm Road at Pippin Road the biggest area of congestion.

“We forecasted traffic to understand how future traffic impacts were going to be, understand what those needs were, and then start developing improvements that address those needs and ultimately come up with recommendations,” Lynch said.

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